A Quick Guide to Biodynamic Wine by Sommelier & Celebrated Author Hillary Zio
As the world continues to shift towards healthier, more natural lifestyle choices, it only makes sense that we’re beginning to do the same with wine. Biodynamic wines are on the rise thanks to its unique - at times, bizarre - winemaking processes. Certified sommelier and author of “The Unfiltered Guide to Working in Wine,” Hillary Zio, took the time to explain the ins and outs of biodynamic wine to us, along with some of her favourite bottles and go-to NYC wine bars.
First of all, what is Biodynamic wine?
Essentially, Biodynamic winemaking incorporates astrology and utilizes the lunar cycle as a guide to planting and tending to grapevines. In addition to this holistic style of agriculture, it is crucial that a winery act in an organic fashion, without the addition of man-made substances. The ideals of organic winemaking stem from the notion that everything in nature survives without chemicals, therefore wine should be no different. Biodynamics, however, takes it a step further and views a vineyard as an entire ecosystem, allowing plants and animals to take the place of chemical additions.
Is Biodynamic wine weird?
Sure, Biodynamics is often described as weird or bizarre and can come with some incredibly dubious techniques. For example, fertilization involves burying a cow horn filled with the manure of a lactating cow, unearthing it in the spring, adding water, and then spraying it around your vineyard. While this hasn’t been proven effective, it hasn’t been proven ineffective either.
Who started it?
Biodynamics was founded by Austrian Philosopher, Rudolph Steiner in 1924. With a strong interest in all things agriculture, Mr. Steiner conducted extensive research and identified several commonalities among viticulturists who seemed quite connected to their environments. He took their practices and formulated them into a set of rules and even a calendar for Biodynamic vineyard management.
Most of his findings have not been proven legitimate, in fact, several have been discovered as incorrect. What has been recognized effective, however, are his claims on naturally produced pesticides, as well as his instruction for picking grapes late at night. This is when temperatures are coolest, and grapes have the lowest chance of bursting before arriving to the winery intact. If you look into most Biodynamic preparations, they are basically homeopathic in nature and used to heal the earth.
Mr. Steiner had a unique mind, attributing intuition as the source behind several of his principles. Whether his findings are completely valid or merely the result of his extensive acid trips, many of my favorite wineries are practicing Biodynamic viticulture today. In fact, thousands of winemakers are following his concepts, leading me to the conclusion that Biodynamics isn’t one big hoax. Regardless of the many eccentric practices, the intense attention it forces growers to pay in the vineyard can't be anything but beneficial to the final product.
Ok, so any favorites?
The list below contains a few of my favorite Biodynamic wines, available now from Convive Wine and Spirits (NYC and online):
Knauss 2016 Weiss Blend, Germany @ $17 USD
Pedralonga 2015 Albarino, Spain @ $29 USD
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups 2014 Vouvray "Clos de Venise" Loire, France @ $40 USD
Montinore Estate 2015 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, USA @ $19 USD
Dettori 2011 "Tuderi" Cannonau Sardinia, Italy @ $30 USD
Bedrock 2014 Old Vines Zinfandel, California @ $24 USD